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MGCC back with a bang at Donington Park

MG Car Club racers made up for lost time after almost three months away, with the Donington Park Summer Race Weekend supported by British Motor Heritage, meeting number three of the 2019 season, characterised by intense on-track battles, some challenging weather, as well as a few tales of bad luck.

 

Lackford Engineering MG Midget & Sprite Challenge

Much of the Lackford Engineering MG Midget & Sprite Challenge event at Donington was dominated by David Morrison in his Midget. He has done a lot of work on the car, building a new engine over the winter and resolving a problem experienced in the earlier rounds of this year of its rear axle moving and leaking oil onto its rear brakes and tyres. And at his local track at Donington it appeared to pay off, as he claimed two comfortable pole positions then won the opening race, with it ending reigning champion Stephen Collier’s monopoly on victory this season. Collier finished runner-up 8.8 seconds shy.

However in the formation lap for race two Morrison’s machine lost some of its gears, forcing him to pull into the pits and retire before the race had even started. This let fellow Midget runner Collier take an easy win, by 10s from Richard Wildman.

“We’ve got the car working now,” said a philosophical Morrison, “we got our first win and pulled away from Steve [Collier] on merit. Sadly today we’ve lost gears and we can’t give Steve a good battle. But we’ll move on and get the gearbox repaired. It’s just part of the game called racing!

“I’m really chuffed that I have made everything work and got the car to my level – it’s going to stick with me. Everybody that was watching it that understands these cars says it’s well planted now. It’s glued to the track.”

Collier also regretted Morrison dropping out of race two. “I was hoping for a better race [with Morrison],” he said, “that’s a real shame, I think we would have had a good battle. We were fairly close on time yesterday and I was hoping I’d made a little change to the car that might have brought me up with him.”

Richard Perry won both Class E races in his Sprite, and either race was a similar tale as runner-up Pippa Cow in her Midget challenged him closely before encountering an delay – in race one a crosswind sent Cow across the grass at the Craner Curves, losing her a lot of time and places, while in race two she again lost time after contact with Tim Grigsby when trying to lap him. In both races she recovered to second in class.

Dean Stanton got race one’s Driver of the Race for finishing third in Class E, while Mark Witherspoon in his Sprite got race two’s Driver of the Race, and also Driver of the Day for Sunday, after topping Class D after starting from the back after missing the previous day’s running and qualifying out of session. Jon Simpson won Class D in race one just ahead of Edward Easton.

 

MGCC Cockshoot Cup with MGF/TF Cup

Paul Clackett in his MG ZS cruised to both MGCC Cockshoot Cup victories, starting both races from pole then establishing winning margins of just under half a minute. He did so too in sharply contrasting conditions, with race one in sodden weather and race two the next day in fine sunshine.

“Very pleased – two firsts; two poles,” Clackett said, “just made sure I was hitting my marks. I was just loving the car, it just ran faultlessly.

“I love the wet or the dry, a car like that it just handles so well, you just push into the bends and it handles like a dream.”

Phil Standish in his MG TF LE500 finished runner-up in race one and was running a strong second in race two as well but dropped out late on with a gear linkage problem, which he thought might have been his own doing due to getting ‘overexcited’ at keeping up with Clackett!

Keith Egar in his Midget finished second in race two, having struggled in the wet race one as his gamble on an intermediate set-up didn’t pay off.

Ian Wright topped Class A in race two and got Driver of the Race, as he’d gone back to Doncaster to change engines overnight, after discovering at the end of qualifying that the original unit lacked compression on two cylinders. This also meant that he, much to his regret, missed the wet first race. Ashley Woodward got race one’s Driver of the Race after finishing fourth.

Karl Green in his ZS got the race one Class B win while Ian Whitt in his Midget – another to struggle in the soaking first race – took the Class B win in race two. David Coulthard and Helen Waddington appeared in MGFs, Coulthard taking a seventh place in race one’s wet conditions not suited to the car then a much more competitive fifth place in the dry race two.

 

MG Trophy

Reigning champion Graham Ross made it three MG Trophy wins from four this year by claiming both Donington victories. He prevailed in wet-but-drying race one – held over two parts due to a red flag – with a last lap outside-to-inside pass of Doug Cole through the Craner Curves.

“I am [pleased], considering this weekend has been a bit experimental,” Ross said, referring to a modified VVC head he was running for the first time, “but the wee thing has gone absolutely great. I can tick the box and say that one’s a success.

“I like Donington, it’s not one of these ones where I come with a negative attitude.”

Cole got two second places from Donington, despite his gears jumping out in the second race, which let Ross past him at the Old Hairpin. “That’s not an excuse, we should prepare them a bit better,” Cole admitted. “I think I could have kept up with him if it’d been OK.”

Double poleman Ross Makar had a frustrating time, as he dropped out of both races with blown head gaskets, which he suspected was due to gas getting into the engine and causing its water to overheat. Makar and Ross made contact at Redgate in race two as Ross went by shortly before Makar dropped out; though both drivers accepted there was nothing malicious in it.

Matthew Turnbull was Class B victor in both races, and got Driver of the Race as well as Saturday’s Driver of the Day for his race one effort, where he finished third overall just 3.6s off Ross. He got the race two class win as well after Sam Kirkpatrick, who was holding Turnbull off, had a late-race engine blow up, ironically at almost exactly the same point of the track that he had a similar blow up in last year’s Donington meeting. Kirkpatrick fell down in race one when he ran off at Coppice in wet conditions, not quite able to correct a slide. Adam Jackson was race two’s Class B runner-up and got Driver of the Race. Joshua Bacon and Paul Croker split the Class C wins.

 

MGCC MG Cup supported by Peter Best Insurance

Both races for the MG Cup supported by Peter Best Insurance featured intense battles for first between championship leader Richard Buckley in his Rover Tomcat and Mike Williams, who appears now to have ironed out the previous reliability problems of his rapid Metro GTi. The pair took a win apiece.

Williams’ Metro starting second beat Buckley off the line in both races though in both Buckley was able to move back into first place in short order; his fast-in-a-straightline Tomcat looking more suited to Donington than Williams’ Metro. In race one however Buckley lost his power steering as it lost its fluid when the filler pot came away. This let Williams get with him and after a long and frenetic place-swapping fight Williams dived past at the chicane at the end of the final lap to win – though Williams thought it was the penultimate lap as the chequered flag was waved a few seconds early.

Race two was a repeat performance but with his steering problems now sorted Buckley was able to turn the tables to win, managing the gap to Williams behind.

“It was really really hard work,” Buckley said of his race without power steering, “Mike was all over me and I was just doing as much as I could to keep just to keep in front and not hit him! Every time he came around the outside of me I was hanging onto the car! If he’d known the trouble I was having he’d have gone the other side. The last corner – gutting!

“Second race [was] just awesome, it was really a case of managing the gap and managing my tyres; Mike is always on the edge. I know he’ll try his absolute damnedest and his tyres will go off.”

“That was about as intense as it can get I think!” said Williams of the two battles. “I think we both lost control of the cars!,” he added of his late race one pass to win “I was completely locked up at the front end, it was do or die basically! It was all good fun, we don’t knock each other’s cars or anything – it’s hard racing but fair.”

Dave Nixon finished third in both races, hanging on to the battling front pair in the first race to finish less than a second shy.

Ian Boulton in race one charged though the field to win Class B, starting from a lowly grid slot after his engine blew up in qualifying and he had to replace it for the race. The performance got him Driver of the Race. Boulton was nudged off on lap two of race two, losing him a lot of time and Iain Dowler that time took the Class B victory with a fine drive to fourth overall. Carl Robinson claimed both Class A wins, while Ed Davies in a ZR and Chris Hughes in a Rover 100 split the invitational class wins.

Kayleigh Twigger got Driver of the Race for race two after an intense battle for sixth place with Peter Burchill’s 180, in which she only came up short when her Tomcat coughed short of fuel in the run to the line.

 

MGCC Iconic 50s

Robin Ellis in his Lotus Elite won the Iconic 50s race, held in tricky conditions which was initially damp but drying then was hit by intense rain late on. Ellis came home just under 5s ahead of Brain Arculus’s fellow Elite – Arculus admitting to “really loath” such conditions. Ellis had moved ahead of poleman Arculus at McLeans and Coppice on the third lap.

Much of the race though was dominated by Mark Ellis in his MGA De Luxe. Mark’s qualifying mark was only good enough for a place at the back, and having started from the pitlane he rose astonishingly to take the lead on the second lap, and he built an advantage of over 15s.

But then Mark from around two-thirds’ distance appeared to hit technical problems, losing straightline speed and dropping to sixth by the end, cruising over the finish line. He did get the compensation though of Driver of the Race. Several drivers started from the pitlane, caught out somewhat by an early call to go to the assembly area with the timetable running ahead of schedule, and this included third-place finisher George Edney in his Lester MG, who is in his 50th year of racing.

 

Drayton Manor Park MG Metro Cup

Reigning champion Jack Ashton continued his 100% record in the Drayton Manor Park MG Metro Cup this year by winning the two Donington races and in both cases by a margin of just under 40s. He was helped by Dick Trevett sitting out both races after hitting problems in qualifying, when a rod underneath his A-Series Metro’s pistons came loose and damaged the gearbox. It left Ashton’s main aim for the weekend to break the lap record, which he didn’t quite manage.

“Bit of a shame that I didn’t have a good race with Dick Trevett,” Ashton said. “Chasing the lap record, didn’t quite get it. Race one, I don’t really know what happened, I tried my hardest but didn’t seem to get it, but in qualifying I did, but it doesn’t count in qualifying! So I was a bit gutted by that. Race two there was a load of oil down until the last two laps. Unfortunately didn’t have the tyres at the start to try and have a go at it! All good fun!”

Ashton’s team-mate Les Tyler got the Driver of the Race award for the opening Metro race for completing the podium in third behind runner-up Dan Willars, and winning out in a battle with Mark Wilson, Tyler calling it his best ever race. Race two had the same podium line-up and Joe Ball got Driver of the Race after coming home sixth.

 

Equipe Three Hour Classic Relay

The Plastic Fantastic trio of Rob Cull, Rod Begbie and Mark Ashworth in their TVR Grantura Mk IIIs took the Equipe Three Hour Classic Relay win, in so doing going one better than their runner-up finish in the race last year. The win looked comfortable, by more than a lap, but the squad had a one-lap penalty added for Ashworth speeding in the pitlane plus a five-second penalty for him exceeding track limits – this taken together meant the victory margin was just 3.2s!

“It was very exciting,” said Ashworth, “[I’m] 100% sure that I didn’t [speed in the pitlane] because I didn’t overtake the incoming car. Never mind – we still won by 3s which is a good margin! We knew that we’d got three quick cars and three fairly quick drivers, and that what’s it’s all about – doing it for three hours; keeping out the pits.”

The 50 Shades… squad of Stephen Bond, Cliff Gray, Keith Fell and Piers Gormly in Lotus Elans was runner-up. Team Brexit, made up of Jeremy Welch, Doug Muirhead – taking part in his first ever race – and Mark Holme, all in Austin Healeys, looked like it might be on course to beat Plastic Fantastic for the win even without its subsequently penalties. But its chance was dashed when Holme was stranded on track near the end of the second hour when his Healey’s coil went.

The team still recovered to finish third, despite its own five-second track limits penalty. It was less than a second ahead of Northern Lights – a team which included the MG Trophy’s own Sam Kirkpatrick putting in very impressive times in an MGB Roadster – in fourth, which had dropped from second place late on due to Andrew Smith’s Marcos sustaining a misfire.

 

Equipe Classic Racing 40 minute 1 or 2 Driver Race

The additional Equipe 40-minute race for the relay entrants the following day was won by Chris Ryan in a Triumph TR4, despite having not driven the car for three months, running a fresh engine for the first time and getting a “very very long brake pedal” during the race. Much of the race was a tight six-car fight for first, though early leader James Haxton in his Healey 3000 dropped from contention when after leaving the track at the chicane pitting immediately believing the pit window was open after misreading a pit board.

Ryan’s two closest on-track challengers meanwhile – Mark Ashworth in a TVR Grantura Mk III and Tom Smith in an MGB Roadster – picked up track-limit time penalties of 45s and 15s respectively, meaning they dropped to fifth and third respectively. Holme’s Healey was classified second. Some 40 cars took part.

“I am pleased, it was completely re-learning,” said Ryan who more habitually drives John Yea’s Austin A40 including during in the 3-hour race. “Gearchange is different, braking’s different, it’s 200kg heavier, everything about it [is different], and there’s a lot of weight transfer as it rolls.”

 

Guest races

Philip Goddard in his +8 won both Aero Racing Morgan Challenge races comfortably. He had a poor start in the first race, as he hit the gate when selecting second, yet climbed back to lead by lap four, passing Andrew Thompson’s ARV6 at Redgate. Thompson developed brake problems in the last third of the race and John Emberson in his Roadster passed for second on the penultimate lap. Goddard led all of the second race, with Emberson and Thompson again completing the podium in the same order.

 

Tom Stoten won the SRCC Sports 2000 Racing Championship race in his Gunn TS11, after his two chief rivals dropped out. It looked like it would be a close three-car battle for the win in the 50-minute pitstop race, but early leader Charles Hall – also in a Gunn TS11 – went off at Coppice at one-quarter’s distance when his brake pedal went to the floor and Hall snagged the throttle deal at the same moment. Then Michael Gibbons in his MCR2, who had been chasing Stoten gamely, stopped just after half distance when a bolt departed from his front left suspension.